Chadian Moussa Faki Mahamat has been re-elected chairperson of the African Union Commission, getting an endorsement from nearly all voting members of the continental bloc.
The vote, decided on Saturday evening, saw Mr Faki elected unopposed, something that had always been expected after the AU said he was the only contender. He got 51 votes out of 55 with three abstentions and one other member being ineligible to vote.
Faki’s victory is the highest in the African Union’s history and he got 15 more votes that he did last time, even though this vote only went through one round.
He will be deputised by Rwandan banker, Dr Monique Nsanzabagwana, who was until Saturday the deputy governor of the Rwandan central bank. Her election went through rounds that were mostly an East African affair. She defeated Uganda’s Prof Pamela Mbabazi and Djibouti’s Hasna Bakarak Daoud.
New gender rules
Under the new rules of governance engineered by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, a chairperson and deputy cannot be of the same gender so it was always expected that Faki’s unrivalled run will see him have a female deputy.
Dr Nsanzabagwana will replace Ghana’s Quartey Thomas Kwesi, who chose not to contest the seat for a second term.
Others in this race for deputy included Gambia’s Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang and Ghana’s Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee. They fell by the way side.
The African Union Commission, the secretariat of the continental body, is currently composed of the chairperson, deputy chairperson and eight commissioners.
The new reform agenda proposes, among others, the reduction of the executive positions to the chair, deputy and six commissioners, from 2021. The vote for commissioners is expected to be completed by Sunday and a new team announced promptly.
On Saturday evening, African Union chairperson, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, said Faki had had a “solid” management of the continental body’s secretariat, especially after he rallied member states to agree on a Covid-19 response plan.
“I appreciate the solid partnership in steering the AU in the past year. You demonstrated focused and strong leadership in addressing the health and economic challenges wrought by Covid-19, and I wish you all the best during this new term,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.
Tshisekedi takes over
The South African leader handed over power to President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who will now be chairperson of the African Union for the next one year.
“As we hand over the baton to the DRC, we are determined to continue working with President Tshisekedi to ensure that Africa becomes an integrated continent, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of African renaissance,” Ramaphosa said earlier in his speech to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.
Faki himself said he had been “humbled” by the number of votes that significantly increases his confidence level.
The vote occurred at the 34th Ordinary Summit of the AU, an annual ritual that often happens every start of the year. This time, it is happening virtually as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions.
Under Faki, the AU had promised to end conflicts by 2020 pursue integration on the continent and help develop infrastructure.
But Faki admitted “emerging threats” had meant that the continent failed in its targets, even though he cited the launching of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCTA), peace deals in Sudan and South Sudan, peace efforts in the Central Africa Republic and the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea as some of the successes.
“The year 2020 was initially scheduled as a cut-off year to silence the guns on the continent, the year from which democratic peace would function as a powerful lever for justice and socio-economic development. Looking at the state of affairs, I note that we have moved only half way,” Faki told the foreign ministers during a virtual sitting of an organ called the African Union Executive Council, the second highest organ of the African Union.
Faki named the rise of violent extremism, religious radicalism, post-electoral conflicts, recurrent attacks by terrorist groups, “the violent awakening of communitarianism and various socio-political expressions of the public governance deficit” as challenges member states “must take up to place the continent on the irreversible trajectory of political modernity”.
This week, Faki and his commissioners launched a report, ‘Taking Stock, Charting the Future’, an accountability statement of the African Union Commission and who were elected in February 2017.
Upgrade early warning system
The officials said the continental sorely needs to upgrade its early warning system, which it argues will help stop the fighting before it begins.
“Silencing the guns will require enhancing state-society relations and addressing structural causes and triggers of conflict and emerging threats in a sustained manner and should therefore become a rallying call for the union beyond the current term of this Commission,” the Report published on Tuesday said.
One of the conflicts they cited was one in Tigray, Ethiopia, saying it reflected a weakness on the AU’s early warning system.
They said there was a “need to invest in structural conflict prevention, political dialogue, mediation and post-conflict reconstruction and development”.
“Several member states continue to endure humanitarian challenges that are either conflict induced or as a result of natural disasters. The recent conflict in Ethiopia brings to the fore the need for member states and the union to invest in early warning and early response as well as conflict prevention efforts to avert humanitarian disasters,” the report launched ahead of AU elections next week said.
“The union should work to prevent, mitigate and resolve conflicts through dialogue, mediation and respect for the rule of law and human rights.